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Bank of America-owned homes shabbier in minority areas, groups say

By Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — The National Fair Housing Alliance and five affiliated organizations announced on Tuesday the filing of a federal housing discrimination complaint against Bank of America for the way it maintains and markets bank-owned houses in minority neighborhoods in eight cities.

Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said the groups had conducted an investigation to determine if Bank of America is maintaining the properties it has obtained through foreclosure in white neighborhoods equal to its properties in black and Latino neighborhoods. The complaint, which is being filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, follows complaints by the alliance against Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp.

“We found significant racial disparity,” Smith said during a conference call Tuesday.

At one house in Grand Rapids, Mich., a dead dog was found among the trash and leaves of a Bank of America property in a black neighborhood.

Peter Romer-Friedman, counsel for the alliance, said Bank of America has a duty under the federal Fair Housing Act not to discriminate in how it maintains and markets its properties. He said that when such properties aren’t maintained properly, it drives down property values in minority neighborhoods and “robs communities of color of wealth.”

According to the investigation, the company’s properties in minority areas were more likely to be poorly maintained, with issues such as yards filled with trash, broken gutters and overgrown grass, than those in white neighborhoods, the alliance found. The company’s homes in white neighborhoods were also more likely than those in minority neighborhoods to be marketed for sale with professional signs in front of homes.

A call seeking comment was left with a Bank of America spokesperson.

The investigation looked at homes in Grand Rapids as well as those in Atlanta; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Miami; Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C.

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